Say you hear around campus that the Spanish class you are taking this semester is an easy A. Do you think you will actually get that A? Are you confident enough to bet money on it? A new website called Ultrinsic.com lets you do just that.
Founded in 2009 by Jeremy Gelbart and Steven Wolf, the site allows students at 36 different universities in the United States to place what they refer to as course, multicourse and semester incentives.
Gelbart, who was studying at the University of Pennsylvania, had the idea while avoiding studying for a test he had the next day. Wolf made a bet with Gelbart that if he got an A on the exam, he would give him $100; if he did not get an A, Gelbart had to hand over $20 to Wolf. That initial concept turned into the Ultrinsic.com website.
The reward amount a student can receive at Ultinsic.com is based on his or her academic history and the amount of money they choose to wager on the expected grade. Students place the incentive, get the grade, and then get the reward.
Though it remains unavailable for use at any Minnesota university, that does not mean the concept of GPA gambling has not entered the lives of St. Thomas students.
“I have friends who are like, ‘Oh, I’ll get an A in this class’ and the guys will bet five dollars on it,” said sophomore Sarah Mlsna.
Sophomore Megan Kelley said she hasn’t seen that in classes.
“I’ve heard of a lot of parents who are like, ‘Hey, if you maintain this grade we will give you money,’” Kelley said. “But I haven’t heard of anything that’s student-to-student or gambling.”
Kelley said she doubted she’d ever bet on her grades.
“[I would] probably not, it depends on the class and what grade I’m going to get,” she said. “But I would never know [the grade].”
“I’m not really into gambling at all,” said Mlsna, “because I have terrible luck usually.”
Sophomore Matt Schaak said he probably wouldn’t use a site such as Ultrinsic.com because of “the fear of overestimating myself or making some sort of accidental, massive screw-up that would also cost me money.”
Technically, there is no need to let the fear of a bad grade scare you away. The site allows you to purchase grade insurance. This means that if you do not do as well as you thought you would in a certain class, you can still be raking in the dough if you have the correct insurance policy.
St. Thomas’ Director of Undergraduate Academic Affairs, Michael C. Jordan, views it differently.
“Anyone who thinks that playing with their money in this way [for GPA gambling] is a way to gain real motivation for learning is already I think in trouble, as far as understanding what studying and learning is all about,” Jordan said. “[Ultrinsic.com] is likely to exaggerate the worst aspects of looking for external rewards and not support a real engagement with learning that is required.”
Does Ultrinsic.com classify as online gambling? According to the founders, the answer is no. As Wolf stated in a recent CNBC interview, “This is a game of skill, not a game of chance.” And according to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, a game of chance is still seen as legal in the U.S. To distance the site even more from the act of gambling, the founders have made it clear that people put down incentives, and have purposely omitted the use of the words “bet” or “wager” from the site.
Ultrinsic Motivators, Inc. failed to respond before deadline as to whether or not the website would be available for St. Thomas students to use in the future.
“St. Thomas would never cooperate with [Ultrinsic.com] in promoting their services, just as we don’t turn over student lists to any business to help them market,” Jordan said.
Colleen Schreier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.